(Greed is the second in my Deadly Sin series. The first, on Wrath, can be found here, where it unfortunately got enmeshed with the Sandy Hook Massacre).
Of all the political oddities over the last several years, none has astonished me more than the Ayn Rand fan boys and the Religious Right jumping into bed together in common cause against the poor. Ew. (And sorry for the visual) I may be missing something.
After all, I’m a Unitarian Pagan who has only read every religious text I have ever been able to get my hands on.
I guess those guys worship the other Jesus. You know, the one that hung around with Roman Centurions and bought and sold businesses while complaining about those lazy Nazarenes who would do so much better if they would just try harder.
He had a pretty good idea there, no matter your religious persuasion.
Like most of these deadly sins, greed is an exaggeration of a state of mind that is positive and useful. Also like the others, it substitutes a positive focus with the ‘worship’ of or obsession with a particular ideal or emotion.
There is nothing wrong with saving for the future and investing and building a safety net for yourself and your family. The problem arises when your family safety net begins to resemble a dragon’s hoard.
Have you ever wondered how the heck dragons sleep on all that gold? It’s got to be incredibly uncomfortable. The same is true for those ruled by greed. This is the curse of the dragon’s gold:
If you allow yourself to be ruled by greed, you become the servant to the dragon’s gold, and it no longer serves you or anyone else.
Mitt Romney personified the end result of the deadly sin of greed when he stated without shame, and without irony, that 47% of the people of the country he was at the time seeking to lead are plotting to ‘steal his gold’. That was a paraphrase, not a quote. Deal. Greed corrupts individuals, communities, and even the entire world. Currently, roughly 40% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of billionaires, while billions of people starve. The root of this greed comes from the idea that no matter how wealthy you are, you ‘can’t afford‘ to let go of even one doubloon, one finely wrought goblet, one half melted (oops) bar of gold, lest disaster fall. Fear. The root of greed is fear.
In fact, numerous studies have found that after a certain set point (which last I checked was around $70,000 per year in current dollars or roughly comfortably middle class) money does not change overall happiness.
That’s right, Joe and Jane Average. Mr. Millionaire is not happier than you, he just has a different set of problems.
The opposite of greed is the Golden Rule, nearly universal in spiritual belief systems and belief systems based on secular humanism. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Cast your seeds upon fertile ground, and work to make infertile ground richer and more fertile. “Pay it Forward” or “The Magnificent Obsession”. Give to others. Invest in them individually, and in communities.
There are thousands of ways to express it, but the concept is simple: Be generous with others. Give more than you ‘need’ to, and allow the giving to be its own reward… You see, a portion of greed is greed for the reward that comes from giving, the pats on the back, the recognition, the gratitude of the recipient, for power over the recipient or those who depend on your gifts.
To build happiness in your life, in your family, give of your time, your energy, your money, and your compassion, without expectations. That whole without expectations part? I can’t emphasize it enough. Without expectations. You are going to be disappointed when you give.
- Some people will misuse the resource you provide (I don’t want to count the number of times I’ve given bus passes to people only to have them trade them for cigarettes).
- Some people will show no outward gratitude.
- Sometimes you will be unable to see how you’ve helped anyone.
- Sometimes you will feel like you’ve made things worse.
The time to stop giving is when you are forgetting to give to yourself. Play as hard as you work. Rest often, and renew. Treat and pamper yourself as you do others.
Another time to stop giving (to a particular person) is if you do not have the emotional energy for the relationship challenges it causes, or when the giving, because of the other person’s situation, is doing more harm than good.
And there are no easy answers here. Sometimes, the thing you need to give most to a loved one with an addiction (for example) is help with the rent and a listening ear, and sometimes the best thing you can do is cut off contact.
What is stopping you from being generous with your time, your love, your money, your friendship?
- Are you afraid? Of what? Rejection? Acceptance? Added obligation?
- Are you angry at the person or system?
- Are you resentful that you never got the generosity that is now being asked of you?
- Are you overextended? (If so, remember to give to YOU)
What are you sleeping on, holding up gathered to you like dragon’s gold, doing neither you nor anyone else any good? Isn’t it time to let it go and sleep on a softer bed?
- Meditation on Greed (halfpond-on-the-highway.com)
- 7 Deadly Sins of the Writing Life: GREED (suzannefarrellsmith.wordpress.com)
- The Power and Greed Pyramid (financialsurvivalnetwork.com)
- Greed (agni7.wordpress.com)
- Smaug the dragon’s monetary tightening (newstatesman.com)
- The Macroeconomics of Middle Earth (worthwhile.typepad.com)